Why does diabetes affect Latinos more than non-Latino whites? Should people with diabetes eat more vegetables as a way to prevent and manage diabetes? These are the questions that Sansum Diabetes Research Institute studies in Santa Barbara, California.

More about Latinos and diabetes

Diabetes is more common in Latino communities than in white communities. In fact, 18% of Latinos of Mexican heritage have diabetes in the United States. This is compared to only 10% of non-Latino whites. When people are first diagnosed, they often experience confusion and uncertainty about their next steps. As a result, there are many Latinos with diabetes without the knowledge or resources to treat the disease. For example, they might not know how to prevent bad complications or prevent the disease in other family members. An organization called Sansum Diabetes Research Institute aims to change that.

Sansum Diabetes Research Institute studies why Latinos have diabetes at a higher rate than whites. In fact, they created a program called “Mil Familias” (www.MilFamilias.com). This program recruits 1,000 Latino families from the California Central Coast with at least one family member with diabetes. Trusted bilingual Latino health workers work with participants to measure factors impacting diabetes. These factors include genetics, biology, behavior, psychology, and environment. The goal is to use this data to create effective interventions to reduce type 2 diabetes in this population in the future.

They also study whether eating a healthy diet is a good way to prevent and treat diabetes. This new program is called “Farming for Life.” This research program provides “prescriptions” for fresh vegetables to low-income local residents with or at risk of diabetes. Participants pick up prescriptions of local, organic vegetables weekly. Before and after 10 weeks, the team measures participant health to see how adding fresh vegetables impacts health.

So far, the results are exciting. Many of the participants lost weight, improved their blood sugar levels, and gained better control over their diabetes. A healthy diet can reduce risk factors for those with type 2 diabetes. It also costs much less money than most diabetes medication without the side effects. Another benefit is that vegetables can reduce obesity, some cancer, and other diseases.

People living in California’s Central Coast affected by type 2 diabetes, regardless of documentation and insurance, should contact Sansum about participating in these programs. Call 805-699-1519 to talk to a bilingual staff member at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute.

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Photo courtesy of Mil Familias © 2018